Tag Archives: Andrew Schneider

About the BP oil spill, greening the desert, and using bicycle power to recharge your mobile

I found a couple more comments relating to the BP oil spill  in the Gulf. Pasco Phronesis offers this May 30, 2010 blog post, Cleaning With Old Technology, where the blogger, Dave Bruggeman, asks why there haven’t been any substantive improvements to the technology used for clean up,

The relatively ineffective measures have changed little since the last major Gulf of Mexico spill, the Ixtoc spill in 1979. While BP has solicited for other solutions to the problem (Ixtoc was eventually sealed with cement and relief wells after nine months), they appear to have been slow to use them.

It is a bit puzzling to me why extraction technology has improved but cleanup technology has not.

An excellent question.

I commented a while back (here) about another piece of nano reporting form Andrew Schneider. Since then, Dexter Johnson at Nanoclast has offered some additional thoughts (independent of reading Andrew Maynard’s 2020 Science post) about the Schneider report regarding ‘nanodispersants’ in the Gulf. From Dexter’s post,

Now as to the efficacy or dangers of the dispersant, I have to concur that it [nanodispersant] has not been tested. But it seems that the studies on the 118 oil-controlling products that have been approved for use by the EPA are lacking in some details as well. These chemicals were approved so long ago in some cases that the EPA has not been able to verify the accuracy of their toxicity data, and so far BP has dropped over a million gallons of this stuff into the Gulf.

Point well taken.

In the midst of this oil spill, it was good to come across a successful effort at regreening a desert. From the Fast Company article by Cliff Kuang,

Today, the Buckminster Fuller Institute announced the winner of its 2010 Challenge: Allan Savory, who has spent the last 50 years refining and evangelizing for a method of reversing desertification that he calls “holistic management.” The African Center for Holistic Management International, an NGO he helped found, will take home a $100,000 grant.

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge is meant to award big, sweeping solutions to seemingly intractable problems. …

… Savory’s prescription seems shockingly simple–and it’s taken him 50 years of work to convince others that he’s not crazy. The core of Holistic Management is simply grazing local livestock in super dense herds that mimic the grazing patterns of big-game (which have since disappeared). Those livestock in turn till the soil with their hooves and fertilize it with their dung–thus preparing the land for new vegetation in a cycle that was evolved over millions of years.

Savory works in Zimbabwe which is where the greatest success for this method is enjoyed but it has also been employed in the Rockies (between Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho Note: As a Canadian, I would not describe this area as the ‘northern Rockies’ as Kuang’s article does) and in the Australian outback.

… Savory’s African Center for Holistic Management has transformed 6,500 acres of land [in Zimbabwe]. There, even though livestock herds have increased by 400%, open water and fish have been found a half mile above where water had ever been known during dry season.


On a similar good news front, Nokia has announced a mobile phone charger that you can power up while riding your bicycle. From the Fast Company article by Addy Dugdale,

The Finnish firm’s [Nokia] Bicycle Charger Kit consists of a little bottle dynamo that you attach to the wheel of your bicycle to power up your phone as you pedal away. It comes with a phone holder that attaches to the handlebars using a hi-tech system composed of an elastic band and a plastic bag, in case of rain. Its price (in Kenya) is a little over $18 bucks, and it’s a wonder that no other phone manufacturer has thought of this before.

The Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit starts to work when you’re pedaling at just under 4mph and clicks off at 31mph. Hit 7.5mph and your bike will be charging your cell as quickly as a traditional charger would.

This reminds me a little of the projects where they try to create textiles that will harvest energy from your body that can be used to power mobile phones and other battery-powered devices that you carry around.

Getting better informed about nanodispersants and oil spills

I was saddened and discouraged to read that the ‘top kill’ solution for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t work. I can only imagine how people who are directly affected feel. As this crisis continues, I begin to  better appreciate how interconnected we are on this planet.

Specifically, I’ve come across a local (Vancouver, Canada) debate about oil spills and liability. One of the daily newspapers and a news station recently featured information about a local marine oil spill (from a Chevron refinery) which occasioned debate on a Vancouver civic blog about environmentalists, hyprocrisy, the desire for oil, and reflections on crime, punishment, and what’s occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.

CityCaucus.com has a May 29, 2010 posting (Oil refinery irony) which makes some harsh points about environmentalists going to check the local oil spill via a motorboat. The points are true and the option suggested, canoeing to the site, is difficult for me to grasp as being a serious option which drove home for me not just the dependency on oil but also the unconscious reliance on how and the speed at which news is conveyed.

The piece managed to attract a very focused and  succinct summary about BP’s culpability. First, the quote which mobilized the comment (from the May 29, 2010 posting),

As Vancouver technologist and Twitter fiend Tim Bray said yesterday:

Unlike apparently everyone, I’m not pissed at BP. You gonna live on fossil fuel, shit gonna happen. BP drew the short straw.

It’s certainly concise (how could it be otherwise with a 140 character limit?) and, I think, true in its way. We do live on fossil fuel and as the sources diminish we will be extracting that fuel in more complex and dangerous ways. Still, Sean Bickerton pointed out in his comment (May 29, 2010 posting on the CityCaucus blog) a few issues with BP,

While our need for oil drives exploration in more and more technologically challenging environments, it’s not demand that produced the worst environmental disaster in American history – that would be the negligence, fraud, incompetence, and greed of a reckless BP that:

* bypassed even minimal safety precautions

* used the cheapest casing and sealants known to have exploded on other rigs

* ignored clear safety concerns of their own crews and engineers

* ignored the fact their own well was out of control, insisting underlings cover up the explosive gas coming up the pipe

* refused to undertake adequate testing of the blowout valve despite known problems

* had no backup plan or equipment in place despite mounting dangers on the rig.

We have every right to insist that risky exploration and drilling be done to the highest environmental and safety standards, and that companies put their worker’s safety and the environment before gouging another penny of profit out of the most lucrative business in the world.

Whether a sin of commission or omission, If terrorists had done what BP has done, killing eleven workers on that rig and fouling the entire Gulf Coast and much of the Gulf of Mexico, the full might of the international community would have been mobilized to attack the entity responsible and all of their assets would have been seized.

Where crimes have been committed, those responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the list other than to observe that with a catastrophe of this size, more than one thing went wrong and this list covers major points.

Meanwhile, the debate over the attempts to mitigate the damage have fostered a controversy over a solution that claimed to be nanotechnology-enabled. Andrew Shneider at AOL News has written a piece, which has some good points and some misinformation all pulled together into a toxic brew.

The company, Green Earth Technologies,  has applied to use what they claim is a nano-enabled dispersant for the oil spill in the Gulf. There has been strong opposition to this as noted in Schneider’s article. At this point, Schneider finds an expert who makes comments that suggest he is not familiar with any of the nanotechnology research he appears to be referring to.

Andrew Maynard at 2020 Science provides an analysis of the company’s (Green Earth Technologies) product and notes that the company did not do itself any favours by being overoptimistic in its product safety claims.  Andrew excerpts the company’s website product description in his posting,

G-MARINE Fuel Spill Clean-UP! is a unique blend of plant derived, water based and ultimate biodegradable ingredients specifically formulated to quickly emulsify and encapsulate fuel and oil spills. These plant derived ingredients are processed to form a colloidal micelle whose small particle size (1-4 nanometers) enables it to penetrate and breakdown long chain hydrocarbons bonds in oils and grease and holds them in a colloidal suspension when mixed with water. Once oil has been suspended in a nano-colloidal suspension, there is no reverse emulsion; the oil becomes water soluble allowing it to be consumed by resident bacteria in the water. This dispersant formula is protected by trade secrets pursuant to Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) Standard CFR-1910 1200. The ingredient list has been reviewed by the US EPA and contains no ingredients considered hazardous by OSHA.

Here’s where the company went overboard,

Does G-MARINE OSC-1809 Oil & Fuel Spill Clean-UP! have any adverse affects on humans / animals or the environment?

None whatsoever. G-MARINE OSC-1809 Oil & Fuel Spill Clean-UP! has shown absolutely no adverse effect on humans or animals. [emphasis mine]

Yes and a peanut can cause an adverse effect if you’re allergic.

Do read Andrew’s textual analysis of how the NGO’s got it confused, a description of how the term nanoparticle is being used as a synonym for carbon nanotube and, for fun, read the comments. Schneider’s expert showed up to question Andrew’s credibility as an expert.

I also found this post by Tim Harper, principal of Cientifica and author of the TNT Log. From a May 29, 2010 post he made prior to attending the latest World Economic Forum meeting,

I often despair when policy on environment and health issues seems to be made without any recourse to science, whether on MMR vaccines, GMO’s or the Louisiana clean up.

The real question I’ll be looking at in Doha [where the World Economic Forum is being held] is [how] much longer are we going to have to wade through obfuscation from all sides while the planet dies?

I quite agree with the sentiment. We don’t have time and I am tired of obfuscation from all sides.

Pour revenir à mes moutons (meaning: getting back to where I started, the literal meaning: returning to my sheep), I think the impact of this oil spill will be felt in ways that we cannot yet imagine and those ways will be profound and global.

Comparing nanomaterials definitions: US and Canada

In light of yesterday’s (April 26, 2010) posting about Health Canada and their nanomaterials definition, Andrew Maynard’s April 23, 2010 post at 2020 Science (blog) is quite timely. Andrew has some details about new nanomaterials definitions being proposed in the both the US Senate and House of Representatives so that their Toxic Substances Control Act can be amended. From Andrew’s posting, an excerpt about the proposed House bill,

The House draft document is a little more explicit. It recommends amending section 3(2) of the original act with:

“(C) For purposes of this Act, such term may include more than 1 form of a substance with a particular molecular identity as described in sub-paragraph (A) if the Administrator has determined such forms to be different substances, based on variations in the substance characteristics. New forms of existing chemical substances so determined shall be considered new chemical substances.” (page 6)

with the clarification that

“The term ‘substance characteristic’ means, with respect to a particular chemical substance, the physical and chemical characteristics that may vary for such substance, and whose variation may bear on the toxicological properties of the chemical substance, including—

(A) chemical structure and composition

(B) size or size distribution

(C) shape

(D) surface structure

(E) reactivity; and

(F) other characteristics and properties that may bear on toxicological properties” (page 11)

Both the Senate bill and the House discussion document provide EPA with the authority to regulate any substance that presents a new or previously unrecognized risk to human health as a new substance. This is critical to ensuring the safety of engineered nanomaterials, where risk may depend on more than just the chemistry of the substance. But it also creates a framework for regulating any new material that presents a potential risk – whether it is a new chemical, a relatively simple nanomaterial, a more complex nanomaterial – possibly one that changes behavior in response to its environment, or a novel material that has yet to be invented. In other words, these provisions effectively future-proof the new regulation.

I prefer the definition in the draft House of Representatives bill to Health Canada’s because of its specificity and its future-oriented approach. Contrast their specificity with this from the Interim Policy Statement on Health Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials:

Health Canada considers any manufactured product, material, substance, ingredient, device, system or structure to be nanomaterial if:

1. It is at or within the nanoscale in at least one spatial dimension, or;

2. It is smaller or larger than the nanoscale in all spatial dimensions and exhibits one or more nanoscale phenomena.

For the purposes of this definition:

* The term “nanoscale” means 1 to 100 nanometres, inclusive;

* The term “nanoscale phenomena” means properties of the product, material, substance, ingredient, device, system or structure which are attributable to its size [emphasis mine] and distinguishable from the chemical or physical properties of individual atoms, individual molecules and bulk material; and,

* The term “manufactured” includes engineering processes and control of matter and processes at the nanoscale.

You’ll notice the House of Representatives’ draft bill offers five elements to the description (chemical composition, size or size distribution [emphasis mine], shape, surface structure, reactivity, and other characteristics and properties that may bear on toxicological properties). So in the US they include elements that have been identified as possibly being a problem and leave the door open for future discovery.

The proposed legislation has another feature, Andrew notes that,

Both the Senate bill and the House discussion document provide EPA with the authority [emphasis mine] to regulate any substance that presents a new or previously unrecognized risk to human health as a new substance. This is critical to ensuring the safety of engineered nanomaterials, where risk may depend on more than just the chemistry of the substance. But it also creates a framework for regulating any new material that presents a potential risk – whether it is a new chemical, a relatively simple nanomaterial, a more complex nanomaterial – possibly one that changes behavior in response to its environment, or a novel material that has yet to be invented. In other words, these provisions effectively future-proof the new regulation.

As far as I can recall, Peter Julian’s (MP – NDP) tabled draft bill for nanotechnology regulation in Canada does not offer this kind of ‘future-proofing’ although it could be added if it is ever brought forward for debate in the House of Commons. Given the quantity of public and political discussion on nanotechnology (and science, in general) in Canada, I doubt any politician could offer those kinds of amendments to Julian’s proposed bill.

As for Canada’s proposed nanomaterials reporting plan/inventory/scheme, Health Canada’s proposed definition’s vagueness makes compliance difficult. Let me illustrate what I mean while I explain why I highlighted ‘size distribution’ in the House of Representatives draft bill by first discussing Michael Berger’s article on Nanowerk about environment, health and safety (EHS) research into the toxicological properties of nanomaterials. From Berger’s article,

” What we found in our work is that nanomaterials purchased from commercial sources may not be as well characterized as indicated by the manufacturer,” Vicki H. Grassian, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Iowa, tells Nanowerk. “For example, it might be stated that a certain nanoparticle is being sold as 30 nm in diameter and, although ’30 nm’ might be close to the average diameter, there is usually a range of particle sizes that can extend from as much as small as 5 nm to as large as 300 nm. [emphases mine]”

That’s size distribution and it reveals two problems with a reporting plan/inventory/scheme that uses a definition that sets the size within a set range. (Julian’s bill has the same problem although his range is 1 to 1000 nm.) First, what happens if you have something that’s 1001 nm? This inflexible and unswerving focus on size will frustrate the intent both of the reporting plan and of Julian’s proposed legislation. Second, how can a business supply the information being requested when manufacturers offer such a wide distribution of sizes in  products where a uniform size is claimed? Are businesses going to be asked to measure the nanomaterials? Two or three years or more after they received the products? [Aug.4.10 Note: Some grammatical changes made to this paragraph so it conveys my message more clearly.]

Then Berger’s article moves onto another issue,

Reporting their findings in a recent paper in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (“Commercially manufactured engineered nanomaterials for environmental and health studies: Important insights provided by independent characterization”), among other problems Grassian and first author Heaweon Park also discuss the issue of batch-to-batch variability during the production of nanoparticles and that some nanomaterials which were being sold as having spherical morphology could contain mixed morphologies such as spheres and rods [emphases mine].

That’s right, you may not be getting the same shape of nanoparticle in your batch. This variability should not pose a problem for the proposed reporting plan/inventory/scheme since shape is not mentioned in Health Canada’s definition but it could bear on toxicology issues which is why a plan/inventory/scheme is being proposed in the first place.

Interestingly, the only ‘public consultation’ meeting that Health Canada/Environment Canada has held appears to have taken place in 2007 with none since and none planned for the future (see my April 26, 2010 posting).

Apparently, 3000 stakeholders have been contacted and asked for responses. I do wonder if an organization like Nano Quebec has been contacted and counted not as a single stakeholder but as representing its membership numbers (e.g. 500 members = 500 stakeholders?) whatever they may be. There is, of course, a specific Health Canada website for this interim definition where anyone can offer comments. It takes time to write a submission and I’m not sure how much time anyone has to devote to it which is why meetings can be very effective for information gathering especially in a field like nanotechnology where the thinking changes so quickly. 2007 seems like a long time ago.

Finally, Dexter Johnson on his Nanoclast blog is offering more perspective on the recent Andrew Schneider/National Nanotechnology Initiative dust up. Yes, he gave me a shout out (and I’m chuffed) and he puts the issues together to provide a different perspective on journalistic reporting environment, health and safety issues as they relate to nanotechnology along with some of the issues associated with toxicology research.

NNI’s clumsy attempt to manipulate media; copyright roots

Is it ever a good idea to hand a bunch of experts at your public workshop on nanotechnology risks and ethical issues a list of the facts and comments that you’d like them to give in response to ‘difficult’ questions from the media after you’ve taken a recent shellacking from one reporter who is likely present? While the answer should be obvious, I’m sad to say that the folks at the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) publicly and demonstrably failed to answer correctly.

The reporter in question is Andrew Schneider who wrote a series on nanotechnology for AOL News. I’ve mentioned his series in passing a few times here and I’m truly disheartened to find myself discussing Schneider and it, one more time. For the record, I think it’s well written and there’s some good information about important problems unfortunately, there’s also a fair chunk of misleading and wrong information. So, in addition to the solid, well founded material, the series also provides examples of ill-informed and irresponsible science journalism. (Here’s an example of one of his misleading statements. If you want to find it, you have to read down a few paragraphs as that post was about misleading statements being bruited about by individuals with differing perspectives on nanotechnology.) The Schneider’s series, if you’re madly curious is here.

Yesterday, Clayton Teague, director for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, provided a riposte on AOL News where Schneider, a few hours, later, offered a devastating nonresponse. Instead, Schneider focused on the NNI’s recent report to the President’s Council of Science and Technology Advisors (PCAST) getting in a few solid hits before revealing the clumsy attempt to manipulate the media message at the public workshop that the NNI recently held and which Schneider likely attended.

If you want the inside story from the perspective of one of the experts who was at the panel, check out Dr. Andrew Maynard’s latest posting on his 2020 Science blog.

Two more points before I move on (for today anyway), Schneider’s ‘nonresponse’ refers to both Andrew and another expert as ‘civilians’.

  • Maynard [director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan School of Public Health] and Jennifer Sass [chief scientist and nano expert for the Natural Resources Defense Council], both leading civilian public health scientists who participated in the review … [emphasis mine]
  • “Surely it is inappropriate for the federal government to advise independent experts what to say on its behalf when it comes to critical news reports,” added Maynard, who was one of the civilian advisers on the panel. [emphasis mine]

As far as I’m aware, only the police and the military refer to the rest of us (who are not them) as civilians. Is Schneider trying to suggest (purposely or not) a police or military state?

As for my second point. Somebody passed the list of NNI preferred/approved facts and comments on to Schneider. The first thought would be someone from the expert panel but it could have come from anyone within the NNI who had access and is sympathetic to Schneider’s concerns about nanotechnology.

Copyright roots

If you’ve ever been curious as to how copyright came about in the first place, head over to Greg Fenton’s item on Techdirt. From the posting where Fenton is commenting on a recent Economist article about copyright,

The Economist goes on to highlight:

Copyright was originally the grant of a temporary government-supported monopoly on copying a work, not a property right.

Surely there will be copyright supporters who will cringe at such a statement. They believe that copyright is “intellectual property”, and therefore their arguments often confuse the requirements for laws that support copyright with those that support physical properties.

The article Fenton refers to  is currently open access (but I’m not sure for how long or what the policy is at The Economist). The last lines (with which I heartily concur) from the Economist’s article,

The value society places on creativity means that fair use needs to be expanded and inadvertent infringement should be minimally penalised. None of this should get in the way of the enforcement of copyright, which remains a vital tool in the encouragement of learning. But tools are not ends in themselves. [emphasis mine]

Today’s posting is a short one. About time I did that, eh?

Nanomaterials and health: the good, the bad, and the ugly?

One of the things I’ve noticed about the nanomaterials safety debate is how quickly it devolves to:  nanomaterials are good (some media reporters, business and corporate lawyers) vs nanomaterials are bad (some media reporters and civil society groups). Unfortunately, we still don’t know much about nanomaterials and their possible effects on health and the environment but there is enough evidence to support a single position if you’re willing discount evidence that doesn’t support your case. There are even people (pro and con) who will use evidence that doesn’t support their case very well unless they leave out details.

Take for example, this interview with Pat Roy Mooney (executive director of the ETC Group) at the Elevate Festival, October 2009 in Austria. Much of what he has to say is quite right (more work needs to be done to ensure safety) but you might get the impression that all this nanotechnology research that’s been talked about has resulted only in consumer products such as sunscreens and cosmetics. At about 4 mins., 15 secs., the reporter challenges Mooney and points out that the research may be very helpful in cleaning water (vital in some areas of the world) and could have other benefits. Mooney concedes the point, grudgingly.

Oddly, Mooney spends quite a bit of time suggesting that gold nanoparticles are a problem. That may be  but the more concerning issue is with silver nanoparticles which are used extensively in clothing and which wash off easily. This means silver nanoparticles are ending up in the water supply and in our fish populations. Studies with zebrafish strongly suggest far more problems with silver nanoparticles than gold nanoparticles. You can check this paper (which compares the two nanoparticles), this paper (about silver only) and this paper (about silver only) or run a search.

Mooney goes on to describe problems with other nanomaterials that I’m unfamiliar with, but I don’t know how far I can trust the information he’s giving me.

Mooney isn’t the only one who likes to remove nuance and shading. In a recent interview on the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel website, one of the interview subjects, William S. Rogers, Jr., essentially dismisses concerns about carbon nanotubes with this:

Rogers: Before the EPA announcement in January, 2010 concerning the proposed SNUR, a series of studies was done beginning in the United Kingdom with a study led by Poland, et al. (2008). That study involved the injection of multi-walled nanotubes into the abdomen of mice, the mucosal lining of which is identical to the mesothelium of the pleura or chest. The injection directly into the abdomen was intended to simulate exposure of the mesothelium in the chest due to inhalation exposure. Approximately 90 days later they examined the biological changes who had taken place as a result of exposure of the abdominal mesolthelial lining to the carbon nanotubes. They reportedly found evidence of inflammation that was consistent with the type of inflammation that had traditionally been recognized in people who had inhalation exposure to asbestos fibers and who later developed mesothelioma. They did not find actual mesothelioma in the mice, but rather what were thought to be precursors to such cancers. The result of publication of these findings was an alarmist reaction that carbon nanotubes posed a danger to humans analogous to that of asbestos fibers. This became headline news.

Up to this point I could agree with him, but now Rogers goes on to point out the study’s shortcomings,

The problem with the study was that the mice were exposed to massive doses of nanotubes by injection, which is not a natural or likely cause of human exposure. The test methodologies were a poor analog for what likely human exposure would be in any setting. Many commentators criticized the study’s findings and suggested that its conclusions about a potential relationship between carbon nanotubes and asbestos fibers was flawed because it rested largely on their shape similarity (long and thin); however, for the last two years there has been talk in the popular media about whether the risks associated with all nanomaterials are akin to those associated with asbestos fibers. The only similarities between carbon nanotubes and asbestos fibers is their long aspect ratio, unlike other nanomaterials. There has been more focus on carbon nanotube toxicity than on other nanomaterial substances, which has percolated up to the EPA. EPA has now decided to treat carbon nanotubes separately from other nano-objects.

Rogers fails to mention that this was a pilot study which was intended to lay the basis for further research. Dr. Andrew Maynard, one of the authors of the study, noted in a March 26, 2009 posting on his blog (2020 Science) further work had been done,

I’m looking at an electron microscope image of a carbon nanotube – as I cannot show it here, you’ll have to imagine it. It shows a long, straight, multi-walled carbon nanotube, around 100 nanometers wide and 10 micrometers long. There is nothing particularly unusual about this. What is unusual is that the image also shows a section of the lining of a mouse’s lung. And the nanotube is sticking right through the lining, like a needle through a swatch of felt.

The image was shown at the annual Society of Toxicology meeting in Baltimore last week, and comes from a new study by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on the impact of inhaled multi-walled carbon nanotubes on mice. [You can find out more about the NIOSH study here]

It’s highly significant because it takes scientists a step closer to understanding whether carbon nanotubes that look like harmful asbestos fibers, could cause asbestos-like disease…

Both the carbon nanotube studies mentioned here are studies of long, multi-walled carbon nanotubes. This distinction is important as substances at the nanoscale can behave differently from each other depending on their shape and size. Both Maynard and the NIOSH researchers suggest that more study is required but clearly the evidence is mounting.

Interestingly, the Good Nano Guide (GNG)* page on carbon nanotubes mentions the Poland study but not the NIOSH Study. The page also notes that at least one study indicates issues with single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes as well as C60 (fullerenes). I wonder if there’s a policy about including only studies that have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

(*a ‘best practices for nanomaterials’ wiki hosted by the International Council on Nanotechnology ETA (April 12, 2010: From Dr. Kristen Kulinowski, “As to your question about our policy for posting information at the GNG, there is no policy that states we only publish peer-reviewed papers.” Dr. KK has offered this and  more information about the GNG in the comments.)

The media also are playing a role in this discussion. I’ve noted before Andrew Schneider’s nanotechnology series for AOL News, from his article Obsession with Nanotech Growth Stymies Regulators,

Separately, the NIOSH team discovered that beyond the well-documented lung damage that comes from inhalation of carbon nanotubes, [emphasis mine] those heavily used carbon structures were causing inflammation of the brain in the test animals.

Except for the fact that “well-documented lung damage that comes from inhalation” is an over statement, Schneider’s article is a good read although as I’ve noted elsewhere I don’t know how far to trust his information. [ETA: April 21, 20010, Schneider also fails to note the the type of carbon nanotube (likely the long, multi-walled ones) on which he bases his unsubstantiated claim. ]

After writing all this, I’m torn. On the one hand,  I do think that if people like Schneider and Mooney had their way, none of us would be eating potatoes, tomatoes, or eggplants. After all, they’re members of the nightshade family and the ill effects of ingesting other members of that family, belladonna (deadly nightshade) and datura (jimson weed), are well documented. On the other hand, folks like William Rogers are all too willing dismiss some very troubling research as their clients strive to bring products to market, seemingly regardless of any consequences.

ETA: Happy Weekend!